On average, children spend most of their time in school, making memories, socializing, and learning about the world. Often times, kids will moan and groan and complain about going to class, but as adults, we understand the power of educating our children. The only problem is, school isn’t exactly a walk in the park for many kids. There’s teasing, bullying, and a strict code of conduct that, well, doesn't really make sense sometimes. Some “unruly” kids wind up spending a great deal of time stuck in detention over the silliest of things, which can range from forgetting a book to being "involved" in a physical altercation. Many folks believe this is an archaic disciplinary practice that is both unfair and illogical. Well, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore is setting the example with their very own holistic approach to how they discipline their kids.Students weren’t following the rules, and sadly, physical violence was rampant among the community. The teachers were running out of ideas on how to approach the situation until two brothers came up with a genius plan.
After all, how do we expect kids to focus on getting straight A’s if they’re surrounded by peer violence and a negative school environment? Ali and Atman Smith knew firsthand about the effects a dilapidating environment can have on your education. “There’s all these things just getting dumped on these kids,” Ali explained. “And they need a way to kind of deal with it,” he followed. We couldn’t agree more!
But Ali and Atman thought that schools weren’t doing a great job at disciplining their kids. The second a child made a mistake, the system would “punish them” with their one-size-fits-all type detention program. But punishing a kid over a mistake doesn’t fix the issue, it might even make it worse, according to research.
The way the detention system works is pretty ineffective as it is. It not only teaches kids that making a mistake, no matter how small it might be, is so bad it will instantly land you in detention, but it also fosters a negative relationship between the student and the teacher, as they will no longer see an authority figure as someone they could trust.
Teachers must find better ways to approach the situation without using embarrassment and humiliation as techniques. Calling out a student in front of their friends will only make the teacher look like the enemy. We must focus on creating a bond of trust between students and teachers, and not foster an “us versus them” type of mentality at school.
This “punish bad behavior/reward good behavior” technique is usually enforced on pets because we can’t use logic and reason on animals. But students are human beings who are capable of reasoning and employing logic. And Ali and Atman definitely agreed with these findings.
So they came up with their very own alternative to traditional punishments, and let's just say...it took people by surprise. In the beginning, everyone was a bit taken aback by their holistic approach.
Students who misbehaved were sent out to the mystical Mindful Moment room where instead of getting punished, they'd have some time to reflect and calm down.
The idea is to give kids a safe space where they could de-stress and calm down if they were just involved in an altercation. The staff is there to help kids refocus their negative energy and in a sense, teach them how to meditate. Now, students and parents were wondering if this new age approach would even work. After all, violence dominated the community.
He wanted to explore how effective meditation would be when dealing with stressors at school. He divided a senior class into two groups where one group meditated all through the year, and the other would not. Needless to say, the results were uncanny.
When comparing the graduation rates between the two groups, researches notices that graduation rates went up by 15% among those who used meditation as a technique to deal with stress, but the number only went up for those who had a low GPA.
On average, a student abandons school every 26 seconds. That number alone sends shivers down your spine, doesn’t it? If you do the math, we would be talking about 1.2 million students dropping out of high school each year.
And everyone seems to be on board, even the students who are fully supporting the idea of meditation at school. Hopefully, the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is the first of many schools that implement change all throughout the country.
“I did some deep breathing, had a little snack, and I got myself together, then apologized to my class,” she explained. But the Mindful Moment room isn't just a place where students can avoid detention. There's so much more to it than meets the eye.
Many of the students at the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School are sadly living below the poverty line, and about 80% are getting regular school assistance for lunches. The principal explained, “We’re trying really hard here to make this a place where children feel safe and where their needs are met”.
It’s designed to help children understand and discuss the issues they could be facing at home which might be preventing them from focusing on learning. After all, a teacher’s efforts could just fizzle out if a student walks into an abusive situation at home. But some skeptics couldn’t help but wonder if this holistic approach would have a positive effect in the long run.
More kids were getting sent to the principal’s office left and right. But just one year after implementing their holistic approach, there wasn’t a single situation that resulted in a kid getting suspended. And that alone had a tremendous impact on the kids.
“When they leave the room,” they explained, “they’re peaceful and quiet and ready to do their work.” Kids are clearly loving the new approach. They're able to take a deep breath, do a little self-reflection, and understand why they act the way they do. But skeptics aren't completely on board yet.
They believe that you can get the same health effects from sticking to a diet and regular exercise routine which will teach kids discipline. Healthy eating and regular workouts will instantly boost your mood and self-esteem, so we can see where they’re coming from.
Kids are reacting positively to this holistic new approach, and that's undeniable. Mindfulness and meditation techniques can give children the tools and skills to understand how emotions manifest themselves. It teaches kids how to control their anxiety, depression, and burnout, so they can focus and concentrate in school, and at the same time, deal with stressful situations in life. “These techniques kind of make you focus on the present,” explained Ali, “which that’s all there really is.”